Beer Review 0225: Stone 16th Anniversary Imperial IPA

Stone Brewing Co. (Escondido, California) are big on Imperial IPAs. And they’re big on anniversaries; each year, the brewery puts out a beer to celebrate their birthday. You might remember just a few weeks ago, Stone released another Imperial IPA to celebrate the tenth year of their Ruination IPA — I scored this tongue scraper 98 points. So, we can only hope that this celebration of the company birth is a fraction as good.

An IPA is not always picked to be the anniversary brew; in the past, Stone has concocted a Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, and a more vague American Strong Ale. But when you’ve got a string of great Imperial IPAs all out in the same year, why not do another?

16th Anniversary is a 10% ABV (alcohol by volume) Imperial IPA brewed with lemon verbena and lemon oil. Lemon verbena is a flowering plant that emits a lemon scent when bruised; these are planted at Stone Farms, their organic gardening division. The hope was the lemon flavors would play nicely with Calypso and Amarillo hops, which are used in the dry-hopping of this brew. The IBUs (International Bitterness Units) register at 85.

The pour produced a large, almost huge head, creamy and lasting. As it begins to diminish, it starts to lace up the glass immediately. The beer was a darker golden/amber color, clear in body and with no particles or sediment. And the lacing, as expected, was very excellent, leaving creamy and sticky sheets all down the glass. A gorgeous beer!

On the nose, this is highly hopped, with the lemon kick coming out front and center. But the hops aren’t your traditional West Coast-style; it’s more of a grassy, herbal type of hop, with touches of grapefruit and a smattering of mango and peach. The malt character is light, with a nice rye bread and some spiciness; then, there’s a bit of alcohol to round things out. For such a big beer, this one didn’t surprise me in aroma complexity.

Tasting, there’s lemon and grassy hops up front (lemongrass, anyone?!) and it turns a bit spicy in the middle thanks to the rye. (A small amount of rye malt is used in this beer.) But then comes on a tea-like character that my palate didn’t really enjoy or expect; think weak herbal tea with a lemon squeezed in, and just like the hot tea, the lemon matches its temperature. If that makes any sense! Mouthfeel was medium, with a creamy texture and the carbonation was soft for a beer from Stone. The finish is bitter, with medicinal lemon/crushed aspirin and more of the tea. The 10% ABV warms the body.

For such a promising beer — an Imperial IPA brewed with lemon to celebrate Stone’s 16th anniversary (that sounds great, right?) — this sure does disappoint. Not only does this Imperial IPA lack flavor, but the flavor it does sport is not what I expect when thinking IPA. Over the last few months, Stone have nailed several new Imperial IPAs, but this is off the mark, unfortunately.

Stone 16th Anniversary Imperial IPA, 85 points. Price: $6.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.

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